Pico's Oration on Dignity of Man What is Pico's view about man's freedom and free will?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Pico della Mirandola's De hominis dignitate, circa 1483, was the onset of what would eventually become more than 900 postulates regarding the reality of man, the hunger for knowledge, and the steps that we would have to realize as individuals to connect to who we are, or our "being". Its insistence in the acquisition of knowledge, both physical, psychological, and even ethereal, makes De Hominis nothing short of a Renaissance manifesto of the general frame of mind of such a cognitively heightened period in history.  Among the tenets of this oration is that man is a "wonderful" thing:

"A great miracle... is man."

When he deals when the topic of freedom, and free will,  Pico quotes the Holy Books referring to the moment Adam was made; he particularly reflects upon the fact that god, as the "Artisan" of the universe, decided to make this particular being separate from all beasts whom, as they leave their mothers' wombs, have but one role to fulfill in this world. Man, however, has been bestowed grace, individuality, and the creativity that comes straight out of his own Maker; this is the free will to act according to the mandates of the heart, mind, and soul. Freedom is, hence, inherent, and blessed by the Higher Power; it is the sign of God's unique love for mankind:

O supreme generosity of God the Father, O highest and most marvelous felicity of man! To him it is granted to have whatever he chooses, to be whatever he wills.

But freedom does not guarantee happiness. Free will means setting your own goals, acting in your own accord; planting your own seeds. Therefore, with freedom come a lot of consequential responsibilities,  because  humans ultimately set up their own destiny:

 If they be vegetative, he will be like a plant. If sensitive, he will become brutish. If rational, he will grow into a heavenly being. If intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God.

The most important thing is that all humans have the same right and freedom to be truly happy and feel blessed by their creator; as long as there is good will and a broad way to cultivate the "being", freedom will work miracles in everyone.

And if, happy in the lot of no created thing, he withdraws into the center of his own unity, his spirit, made one with God, in the solitary darkness of God, who is set above all things, shall surpass them all.

Therefore, the free will bestowed upon us by God as a gift to all mankind can propel us to use our freedom for whatever we want. Yet, it is most useful and productive to use the gift of free will to our own advantage, to become better people and to never forget our unique status as children of the "great Artisan" which is God.

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